Giant Puffball Mushrooms

Puffball Mushroom Harvest

Puffball Mushroom Harvest

I found these puffballs in the grass along the edge of the woods two days ago.  Giant puffballs, Calvatia gigantea, are edible but they have to be harvested and used while quite fresh.  Once they start to dry and turn yellow and brown, they not only lose their culinary appeal, they apparently become toxic.  So when these presented themselves at the right time this year, we harvested, prepared a couple meals, and dried quite a few.  The golf ball, which was also in the grass, gives an idea of their size, and they can be a lot bigger than these specimens.  Soccer ball size is not uncommon.

Unlike many mushrooms, it’s difficult to confuse giant puffballs with other mushrooms.  That’s a good thing.  We learned a long time ago that they were edible.  While I’ve seen some online rave reviews regarding their taste, we find them quite bland.  They give off a strong mushroom odor and have a slight mushroom flavor, but they remind us of unflavored raw tofu, not too exciting. That does not detract from their value and in some ways enhances it.  The puffball inside is spongy and absorbent.  It sucks up liquid and takes on the taste of whatever flavors and seasoning it is cooked with.

Cheese Crusted Puffball Slices

Cheese Crusted Puffball Slices

Here’s Judy’s recipe for delicious fried puffball slices:

Egg wash – mix these ingredients together:

2 eggs, beaten

2 T. water

salt and pepper optional or to taste

Breading mix:

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, we used leftover dried sourdough bread

1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

3-4 T. olive oil

Brush any dirt off the puffballs, then peel off the outer skin.  Carefully cut into 1/2″ slices.  They tend to crumble so do the best you can.  Dip slices in the egg wash then in breading mixture.  Fry in olive oil in cast iron frying pan preheated to medium high for about 3 minutes per side.  Serve with salsa or bruschetta.

We also cooked some up with eggs.  We saved the left over crumb mixture in the freezer and the next morning mixed it with about 4 cups cubed puffball mushrooms and 2 beaten eggs.  This made an excellent scramble, fried with onions and a little hot pepper for about 8 minutes.  The Parmesan cheese made it special – really delicious!

Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast Tacos

This morning, breakfast tacos – cubed fresh mushroom, onions, garlic and hot pepper sautéed for 6 minutes then beaten eggs scrambled in.

Dried Puffballs

Dried Puffballs

We had way more than we could eat fresh so we dried a few.  We cleaned and sliced the mushrooms about 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick.  We arranged them on parchment paper covered cookie sheets and dried in a 200 degree oven with the drying fan on, rotating the cookie sheets about every 30 minutes.  It took a little over four hours to get dry.  Once dried, they become very fragile and crumble easily.  We may have to use them as a powder rather than whole pieces.

If you find them at the right time, Giant puffballs are free, fun to work with and good to eat.

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2 Responses to “Giant Puffball Mushrooms”

  1. Will Shirley says:

    I picked one last week that was about the size of a basketball. By the time I had it opened it had started turning slightly off-white so it went to the compost. This is the same location where last year I found 3 big puffballs and down the road yesterday I spotted one that is softball sized. So this must be the right time for puffballs, eh? I like to marinade them in soy or terriaki sauce and then treat them like tofu.

  2. Arlene Schnuerle says:

    May 26, 2015 Today we picked about 10 Puffballs ranging in size from 5″ in diameter to about the size of the basket ball. We find these very flavorful. When we cook mushrooms, we really like to use Tajin Seasoning. A must to really bring out the flavor. We like to mix a couple eggs and milk together and we slice these puffballs about 1/2″ thick and roll in egg/milk mixture and then roll in Panko. We season with Tajin, Salt, and Lemon Pepper. Such a wonderful flavor. We also like to slice larger ones to about 1/2″ and brown in Avocada Oil or other oil, Freeze and you can keep these and get out later and put them on a cookie sheet and make a wonderful pizza of the ingredients your family likes or use it as a bread substitute and make a sandwich out of this. I have some in the dehydrator and I will let you know how I like these later. Mushrooms can seem bland if you don’t take advantage of wonderful seasonings.